When I wrote the post below, it seemed like winter might finally be here. But even as our southern neighbors got buried, our snow shrunk in proportion. No ice shacks on the lake this year, though a few brave folks haul their traps out in sleds. The ice is 8-10 inches thick; usually it’s about 18 inches this time of year and people drive out in their trucks.
But there was a day, maybe a week or two ago, when we had Winter.
We woke to the pinging of sleet this morning, but the temperature dropped and the world quieted as it changed to snow. Sifting steadily down, it piled up and we threw on our skis.
Out the back door, across the road, we glided through our neighbor’s field, and into the woods. At first the cold northwest wind made us hurry, but when we reached the shelter of trees, we slowed and looked around. The beauty of the stark monochrome of winter is a cliche, but a deserving one: the bare trees with their white frosting really are beautiful. A green wax day.
We came to a stream crossing and took in the running water framed by jagged snow-topped ice–reminding me for some reason of layered toffee. Gingerly, we clattered across in a place where the ice stretched fully over the stream.
On the other side is another neighbor’s trail system, wide paths rolled with a snow machine. We can ski a mile to the nearest road on his system, all without a trail fee or the mosquito whine of our snowsledding friends.
The quiet might be the thing we like best. When we stop, we hear the wind in the trees, a flock of chickadees foraging in the tops of a white pine, and the snowplow, distantly. All the while the snow falls, attempting to erase our tracks.
We turn around when we come to a house (at least two miles through the woods) and begin the journey back. It’s ever so slightly uphill most of the way, and by the time we come to the fields again, I have unzipped.
We ski through a patch of sensitive fern seedstalks, past brittle empty milkweed pods that rattle, past little round seedheads that look like coriander, but aren’t. We’ve seen plenty of deer prints, a porcupine trail, a ruffed grouse track, ubiquitous turkey footprints, snowshoe hare. Even though we feel alone out here, we aren’t.
As we came back out into our neighbor’s field, the wind now at our backs, we trudged towards home thinking of bowls of hot beef stew. And still the snow fell cold and silent, sealing us in winter, if only briefly.